Midwest winters bring snow, ice, freezing rain or sleet, wind and extremely cold temperatures – sometimes all at once. The countdown may be on for spring, 56 days if you’re curious, but winter weather emergencies continue to affect our communities.

Take a few minutes to prepare (or repack) winter survival kits for your home and car. Unpredictable and rapidly changing conditions can make difficult travel difficult during the course of the day.

“Just because it’s clear when you leave for work or school, doesn’t mean your return trip will go off without a hitch,” said Dan Ensign, Coles County Emergency Management Agency. “Even traveling within the State just a few dozen miles can have a drastic change in conditions, so it’s best to prepare.”

Monitor National Weather Service advisories and warnings. Pay attention to the main threat from the storm such as blowing and drifting snow, extreme cold or slippery roadways. Other helpful tips will keep you safe this winter.

  • Dress properly
  • Pack (or replenish) a go-kit for traveling
  • Know the warning signs of cold-related illnesses


Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothes. Dress in layers when you do go outside. Be sure to cover your head, feet, nose, ears and fingers. Outer layers and footwear should be waterproof. Those working outside should carry an extra set of dry clothes in case they get wet.

Mittens or gloves should be snug at your wrist preventing air, water and snow from getting inside. Hats and hoods prevent loss of body heat. A facemask or scarf covers the nose. Wool socks keep feet dry and warm.

“The trapped air between the layers insulates and keeps you warmer,” Ensign said, “Remove layers if you’re hot to avoid sweating and getting chilled.”


If traveling, make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas and pack a go-kit. Minimally, the kit should include:

  • Battery jumper cable
  • Flashlight
  • Blanket
  • Fully charged cell phone
  • An overnight kit consisting of a change of work clothes, sleeping clothes, a toothbrush, toothpaste and medication you may require

“I recommend water and snacks on hand in case it takes some time for help to arrive,” said Karen Feldkamp, Emergency Preparedness coordinator, Effingham County Health Department and president, Champaign Region Healthcare Coalition.

“Other tools to consider are a shovel, windshield scraper, a small broom, salt or sand and a tow chain or rope,” she said.

KNOW THE SIGNS – Frostbite and hypothermia

Be alert to the signs of weather-related illnesses such as hypothermia and frostbite.

The signs of frostbite include

  • freezing of a body part like fingers, toes, nose, ears
  • pale yellow or white skin
  • skin feels like pins and needs – itching, stinging, or burning
  • blue or black skin in more advanced stages

If you suspect frostbite, move inside to warm place and remove wet clothing. Start rewarming the area by applying warm, not hot, water. Loosely bandage the area. Avoid breaking any blisters. Seek medical care.

Carle Hoopeston Regional Health Center’s Emergency Department nurse Charlotte Strawser, RN, said, the more serious concern is hypothermia, which is life threatening. A person may have shivering, numbness, a glassy stare, weakness, impaired judgement or loss of consciousness.

“Call 911. Then, move the person to warm shelter. Remove wet clothing and cover with dry garments. Apply warm compresses – do not use hot water. Monitor breathing and initiate CPR if breathing stops,” Strawser said.